Witnesses to the truth!

Cicero now calls on witnesses that can testify to Pompey’s nonpareil virtutes imperatoriae, thus drawing the language of forensic oratory into the political domain. Mere humans will not do: he gives us a parade of personified countries: Italy, Sicily, Africa, Gaul, Spain, and again Italy, in a powerful sweep across the entire Western Mediterranean, are called upon to vouch for Pompey’s excellence in warfare. When Cicero says Testis est Italia, Sicilia, Africa, etc., there is no suggestion that he is referring to the Italian, Sicilian, African etc. people. The regions called for testimony are foreshadowed by the list in § 28 about the breadth of Pompey’s military experience: civile, Africanum, Transalpinum, Hispaniense, servile, navale bellum, varia et diversa genera et bellorum et hostium.

The drum of ‘testis est + country + relative clause’ in asyndetic sequence is relentless:

  • (i) Testis est Italia, quam ille ipse victor L. Sulla huius virtute et subsidio confessus est liberatam.
  • (ii) Testis est Sicilia, quam multis undique cinctam periculis non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate explicavit.
  • (iii) Testis est Africa, quae magnis oppressa hostium copiis eorum ipsorum sanguine redundavit.
  • (iv) Testis est Gallia, per quam legionibus nostris iter in Hispaniam Gallorum internecione patefactum est.
  • (v) Testis est Hispania, quae saepissime plurimos hostes ab hoc superatos prostratosque conspexit.
  • (vi) Testis est iterum et saepius Italia, quae cum servili bello taetro periculosoque premeretur, ab hoc auxilium absente expetivit, quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum.

In terms of overall design, Cicero uses ring-composition, starting and ending with Italy, together with a massive rhetorical climax. On his return to Italy (vi), he breaks the established pattern in various ways. First, he adds the adverbs (themselves arranged climactically) iterum et saepius in the main clause. Second, he integrates a further construction (the cum-clause cum ... premeretur) within the relative clause. And third, he continues his account of this particular campaign by means of a connecting relative (or another relative clause) (quod). The sense of climax is further enhanced by the way in which Cicero gradually amplifies the degree of agency granted to his geographical personifications in the relative clauses.

  • In the first two instances (Italia, quam...; Sicilia, quam...), they are accusative objects (though the first quam is also the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduced by confessus est). The subjects are Sulla (confessus est) and Pompey (explicavit).
  • In the third (Africa, quae...) and fourth (Gallia, per quam...) instances, Cicero does without a human agent, and the regions gain in prominence as the (passive) targets of military or strategic actions.
  • And in the final two instances (Hispania, quae...; Italia, quae...) the regions are the subjects of verbs that presuppose active agency (conspexit; expetivit).

One of the effects of personification is to suggest a special relationship of Pompey to the divine sphere – compare the idea of the river(-god) Tiber in the Aeneid, who is on speaking terms with Virgil’s hero. This adds to the claim, which in fact permeates the speech, that Pompey is favoured by the gods. See further § 48 (discussed below), where Pompey emerges as having special powers over the forces of nature.